Reflections on English: Salutations, the death of You’re Welcome
Author: Ken Wais
I have noticed listening mainly to radio broadcasts, that use of the polite phrase you’re welcome in response to the polite salutation, thank you, is disappearing. What is even more interesting is the phrase thank you is replacing it as the preferred response! What? Did I say that? Yes, it’s true as least from my radio listening experience. That is, interlocutors are now starting to thank each other when starting discussions and ending them on the radio. This is particularly true of radio interview programs that abound on public radio, like NPR. You want an example now don’t you. Okay, here is one almost verbatim I heard recently.
Host: X thank you for speaking to us this morning.
Guest: Thank you for having me.
Host: X thank you for talking to us about this issue.
Guest: Thank you too.
This is no isolated example, for sure. Over and over, and over again, I hear this kind of exchange. It makes me wonder why doesn’t anybody just say you’re welcome anymore? I’ve heard just the two thank yous without any extended comment. Usually the respondent in this case lays stress on the you. So, you’ll get thank YOU. It is mystifying to me. I believe it has something to do with the persons engaging in a conversation via a medium like radio and they’re trying to appear polite. But, why do they have to fall all over each with these thank yous? When I hear this kind of exchange I want to say, then who the hell is welcome, then? If this keeps up we’ll all become a lot of sycophantic, obsequious appreciation seekers. This needs to stop. We need to go back to thank you/you’re welcome salutary paradigm. My fellow English speakers there is no need to go around thanking anybody that rings you up for a discourse.
An offshoot of this development, I’ve heard, again on the radio is when a radio program has a call-in program. Now get this, the show is all about calling in with your questions, comments, etc. I have heard real jerks answer when they’re chosen with thank you for taking my call. Here, servility has been raised to the level of an art form. For somebody to thank a radio show host for allowing them to be on the air, when the show’s purpose IS to take calls, is nauseating. It implies that of the thousands of callers that have waited on line to speak, the host said oh, that guy in Jerkery, Ohio, let’s take him. But, this is not why the idiots are saying that phrase. It’s just a salutary phrase they’ve learned to use. They have heard others of their ilk use it and like good mindless, conforming goofballs, they pick it up and continue spreading this phrase. The only instance in which a thank you for taking my call would apply is if the host said something like the following:
Okay, listeners we have some 50,000-people waiting to get on, and we have less than a half hour left, so if you get on this program you’re lucky, but please call anyway.
In this case yeah use that phrase.
Since all good hearty rants come to an end, as I end this one, I ask you to listen carefully the next time you’re in your car, and hearing some radio talk show--are they thanking each other without welcoming?